Not the best day ever

For some reason I’ve not blogged much about the new series I’m making, which is a shame because today’s been probably the least encouraging day so far, and now you’re all going to go away with the wrong impression of it. It’s not a nightmare gig, I’ve just had ‘one of those days.’

The series is a(nother) children’s make&do show, of the sort I should probably avoid on the grounds of CV atrophication. However, the production company is lovely, the rest of the production team is a Top Bloke, and there are interesting aspects to the gig. Notably, the budget is tiny. OK, all TV people these days complain about squeezed budgets, but this… woah, boy. I’ve made similar shows in the past, but for those I had five times as much money. ‘Minor scaling back’ doesn’t start to cover it, and one is hence pushed into somewhat radical solutions. Of which more anon, since it’s fun working out what they might be.

One consequence, however, is a somewhat compressed schedule. Which presents a problem when things don’t quite go to plan, since there’s not a whole bunch of leeway involved. So, today, with filming three weeks away, we should have been confirming crew for studio. Frustratingly, we weren’t in a position to do that. The immediate knock-on effect is minor, except that I’m supposed to have another production chap start tomorrow and… well, I’m not sure either of us know if he’s turning up or not. He’s a laid-back sort and I’m sure it’ll be fine, but I dislike relying on people’s good natures like this.

The second difficulty could perhaps be referred to as an ‘imbalance of ambition.’ This is, by its very nature, an ambitious show. We’re putting as much effort into the content as we have on any previous series we’ve made, but there are fewer of us and fewer weeks’ prep, so we’re spread rather thinly. Item ideas are ahead of where I’d expected (Gavin is something like a genius when it comes to making games out of cardboard and yoghurt pots, and if he can dream it up I can usually make it work). Scripts are doing OK, though by the nature of the show they’re fiddly to redraft, and that worries me since time is short. But props… woohooo that’s scary. We’ve a mountain to climb, and we’re only just starting to see a plausible way around it. My gut instinct is that it’s touch-and-go on getting everything done, and I’ve made a genuinely ridiculous number of series of this sort: my gut is usually right.

So now isn’t a good time to be discussing fairly-to-seriously major additions to the format. It’s not that our commissioner is making ridiculous suggestions. Far from it, I like her a lot, think she has some great ideas, and find her approach refreshing. But my best guess is that we’ll come seriously unstuck if we try to do everything that’s currently on the table. So that’s going to be a nice phone call tomorrow. ‘Sorry, you can’t have that’ – never a good opener.

…and then I came home to the most hilariously huge bill from the Inland Revenue. Oh, I laugh now, now I’ve worked out why it’s nigh-on double what I was expecting. Still, it’s another major thing to sort out, and suddenly there aren’t enough days in the week, let alone hours in the day.

So, not the best day ever. I’m going to bed.

4 thoughts on “Not the best day ever”

  1. Jonathan – just say no. You can only do what you can do for the money. My approach is lke a plumber of my acquaintance – sure we can fit the gold plated taps, but obviously there’ll be a cost implication. How much more do you want to pay?
    As producer you have a duty to refuse to do unrealistic things. Otherwise everyone working to you ends up subsidising the broadcaster (who’s got a lot more money than us!). Why should the team work 12 hour days, the crew travel for free, the location not get a fee – all to increase the broadcaster’s and production company’s profits?

  2. Ah yes, I have a fond memory of working as a humble AP/Director for Patrick and saying ‘No’ to a suggestion. You were very good about it Patrick… and I did agree to come out from behind the filing cabinet when you promised to put the Nerf gun down.

  3. Yes but… The thing is, we used the word ambitious to mean “let’s put as much on screen as we can for the money”. Nowadays people use the word to mean: “We can’t afford to make the show we pitched to the broadcaster, so instead of cutting our coat according to our cloth and owning up, we’ll book everybody on buy-outs and make it anyway…”

  4. I do agree really – it just made me smile thinking back. But you’re right, it’s a different situation now.

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